Franck is a bachelor this year, he thinks that if he changes a few words in a citation, he doesn't need to quote the author.

Writing an academic paper encourages the mixing of personal and public ideas. The challenge for the reader is to be able to easily distinguish both to besure that plagiarism is avoided. So how do you use the ideas of authors while respecting intellectual property?



  1. What is the definition of paraphrase?
  2. What is the benefit of rephrasing? 
  3. How to paraphrase correctly?
  4. How to avoid plagiarism by using paraphrase?
  5. How do you paraphrase a passage whose author is anonymous?
  6. Should the inventor of common knowledge be mentioned?
  7. What are the alternatives to rephrasing a quotation?
  8. Does anti-plagiarism software detect paraphrase?


1. What is the definition of paraphrase?

Cambridge Dictionary defines paraphrase as "the same thing written or spoken using different words, often in a simpler and shorter form that makes the original meaning clearer". It is used to give a general idea of an author in their own words. It is particularly effective in explaining an idea and making it accessible to all. It shows that we have understood what the author means. Additionally, it is widely used in law to interpret legislation.

To practice paraphrasing, it is not enough to change a few words but you must reformulate the whole sentence, including words and structure.

Whether you are writing a thesis, dissertation or any other research paper, you use the knowledge and experience of various authors. You can use quotation or paraphrase. Let's understand the difference between the two.

Quoting is : 

Paraphrasing is :

  • The rephrasing, rewriting or transcribing of an idea,
  • The use of common language, simple words, understandable without prior training,
  • The bibliographical source referenced in the body of the text, sometimes also at the bottom of the page and in the bibliography.

Rewriting is only tolerated if the original author is mentioned. There is no point in appropriating knowledge that is not your own, readers will always realise this and the whole document will be discredited. On the contrary, highlighting the author of the quoted text adds value to your work because it shows that you have researched your subject.

To practice this, it is not enough to change a few words but to rephrase the whole sentence. If you have to rewrite an entire text, you need to rethink the whole structure and form by asking the right editorial questions, rewrite the title, add additional ideas and follow the writing techniques to write a quality text that will interest the reader.

To introduce your paraphrase, you can for instance, write "according to" and then the name of your author. 

The power of Paraphrasing

2. What is the benefit of rephrasing?

It gives the general idea of an author using his or her own words. The writing style remains the same as the rest of the document and makes it easy to read.

It is particularly effective to explain an idea and make it accessible to everyone, and shows that you have understood what the author means. It is then used to simplify certain complicated statements. Rewording is used a lot in law to interpret legal texts.

In addition, it sometimes sheds light on the author's thoughts by explaining what is implicit.

3. How to paraphrase correctly?

Here are several rephrasing techniques. Try some of them out and choose your favourites: 

  • Replace some important words with their synonyms

This is the most traditional method. However, remember to keep the same writing style in your entire document. 

  • Pretend you want to explain it to someone

Whether in front of a real person, your mirror or in your head, give your explanation of the text. You will have to use your own vocabulary and you will soon realise if there are any grey areas in your understanding.

  • Make a diagram, a drawing, or a table

Synthesising or drawing an idea (via mind map or sketchnoting for example) will give it a whole new dimension. From what you have produced, you can simply construct a sentence or present it.

  • Identify the key words

By visualising the key words, you will be able to modulate the quote and extract the main idea. The aim is to rephrase the sentence using the main words in your text.

  • Modifying the structure of the sentence

To do this, the verb can be changed into a noun, the passive voice into the active voice, the verb conjugated in a different tense, the noun phrase changed in the sentence...

  • Indicate the source

In all cases, remember to mention the name of the author, the place where you found information and the date of publication to avoid plagiarism and the penalties that go with it.

Why is plagiarism prohibited?

4. How to avoid plagiarism by using paraphrase?

To introduce your paraphrased concept, simply write

  • "According to this author, ..."
  • "Thus, according to this author..."
  • "If we take the author's words..."
  • "That is to say that...
  • "In other words...
  • "This author seems to be saying that..."
  • "In other words...
  • "If we are to believe what this author says, ..."

Don't forget to mention where you found the citation, including the name and date of the publication.


Example: According to Erin Myers, editor of the website rev.com, watching movies with subtitles can be used to improve your language skills.

Article "Learn a New Language By Turning On Subtitles", published on 6 June 2018.

anonymous sources

5. How do you paraphrase a passage whose author is anonymous?

When you do research, you sometimes find information without an author. However, the idea is not yours. It has already been documented by someone else. To avoid being accused of plagiarism, even if the author wishes to remain anonymous, you should reference your sources. To do this, simply mention the place where you found the passage you were inspired by and write "anonymous author" or "unknown author".

common knowledge

6. Should the inventor of common knowledge be mentioned?

This is the only exception to avoid mentioning the authors of your quotes and paraphrases. When a fact is common knowledge, bibliographic referencing is not mandatory. However, beware of certifying that the information is public knowledge. When in doubt, to avoid plagiarism, it is better to cite the source.

Quotation rules

7. What are the alternatives to rephrasing a quotation?

There are other ways to transmit other authors’ arguments and information. A part of a sentence can be quoted directly, by putting it in quotation marks and citing its author.

Example: Albert Einstein said, "Everyone is a genius", so it would all be a matter of will?

The entire sentence can also be quoted if paraphrasing is difficult to formulate or if you realizes that paraphrasing brings the concept too far from the author's original idea.

Example: According to Albert Einstein "Everyone is a genius, but if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will spend its life thinking it is stupid."

The use of italics is not mandatory but serves to differentiate the quotation from the rest of the text.

anti-plagiarism software

8. Does anti-plagiarism software detect paraphrase?

All software companies are working on algorithms that will enable them to detect word groupings, paraphrases and style differentiations ever more effectively...

Compilatio Magister, Compilatio Studium and Compilatio Copyright software packages locate cut and paste and even 'scattered cut and paste', also known as paraphrasing. Indeed, the biographical reference is mentioned in the same way as a quotation. Compilatio technology allows you to ignore certain correctly cited passages and the bibliography to obtain a score that may be similar to a plagiarism score rather than simple textual similarities.

So avoid the temptation to fool plagiarism detection software. Cite authors of your paraphrases correctly.

infographic paraphrase

Finally, rewriting a quotation is an exercise required at university. It highlights your understanding of information you have gathered and can be used in a variety of ways. On the other hand, paraphrasing is always accompanied by the citation of its author.

Franck, to validate your professional licence, you can use paraphrasing by mentioning the authors of the texts used.

Download the infographic